This X-Files review contains spoilers…
The X-Files Season 10 Episode 5
There’s a moment in “Babylon,” the penultimate episode of The X-Files six-part revival, that transcends time and space.
It was brief, but it took me far away from what by all conceivable critic logic tells me is an episode that takes bigger swings than “Fox Mantle,” and harder misses. Speaking as a fan, from X-Phile logic, this moment is on par with Mulder’s advice during the infamous batting practice scene in “The Unnatural” that sent ‘shippers into a drool: “We’re not gonna think,” he tells Scully, hands firmly on her hips. “We’re just gonna let it fly.”
That’s more or less where Mulder’s head was at when he decided to let a magic mushroom fly down his throat, sending viewers on a trip that was easily one of my favorite scenes of the entire series, complete with cowboy hats, line dancing, and priceless cameos from old friends. The honky tonk scene, which best be on YouTube any second now, sent me on my own crisis of faith. It took two viewings to form an opinion on “Babylon,” one that feels like a cop-out, as I sit square in the middle of the believer-skeptic spectrum. Like four out of the five revival episodes to air thus far, save “Were-Monster,” this episode both rewards our faith and challenges it. Though I have to admit, even what I originally perceived as the episode’s faults grew on me.
The Chris Carter penned and directed episode is structured as a backdoor pilot for a new crop of ideologically opposite agents to take over the X-Files. Whether Robbie Amell (Agent Miller) and Laura Ambrose (Agent Einstein) actually do–Carter didn’t rule out the possibility, though the guest stars only signed on for one episode–isn’t the point here. The episode is a test to see if the smartphone generation is still open to believing.
Even if it was on the hammy side, I’m not entirely against the on-the-nose premise of the episode or the fairly straightforward monster, extremist islamic terrorism, that brings the four agents together. The X-Files barely got to explore the post-9/11 world, shying away from it entirely in I Want to Believe. It’s easy to dismiss Carter’s script as late to the fight, but he likely used real life inspiration from a shooting at an anti-islamic art exhibit shooting in Texas last year. The episode mirrors these events, amplifying the fear with a suicide bombing, and sending the FBI after the cell orchestrating this terror.
This is where the plot would get juicy if it was a cold open for 24. For The X-Files, it leads to a trip so awesome that I devoted an image gallery to it at the top of the page. Other than that, not much excitement happens. What the episode does, though, is continue a few important threads we’ve seen in the revival. The episode hammers home the “beauty of the mysterious” as Agent Einstein puts it. Last week Margaret Scully was buried with her secrets, like the significance of the quarter necklace that Scully now holds close. This week, Mulder and Miller Time make good on a case that hits close to Scully’s heart by wrestling a big secret out of a comatose jihadist.
For the second week in a row, The X-Files pulls wonderfully from season two’s “One Breath,” in which Melissa Scully, Dana’s sister, helps Mulder communicate with a vegetative Scully through spiritual means. Where Mulder’s anger from the previous mythology episodes, “Duane Barry” and “Ascension,” prevented him from connecting with Scully at first, it’s possible that experience gave Mulder the confidence to pursue this “alternate” method of terrorist thwarting, Jack Bauer be damned.
Carter mostly cleans up the word-vomit of the season premiere to poignantly tackle questions that cannot simply be answered: Mulder’s theory that “thoughts have mass” or “ideas such as faith and forgiveness have weight,” or his vision of unconditional love vs. Scully’s view of unrelenting hate. He bookends the episode with a page straight out of the Book of Revelations, using Christian eschatology–how things like life or the world end–to leave what looks like two reunited lovers finding a common language again. Which is great, if only he can get them to stop saying “I want to believe that…”
Mulder and Scully solved two out of their last three cases, an all-time X-Files record.
No one saw the Lone Gunmen returning like this. I love it.
I’d never ask to trade Duchovny’s hotshot believer for Amell’s lukewarm wannabe or Anderson’s measured skeptic with Ambrose’s hardline cynic (even though Scully is mighty testy in a handful of episodes in seasons 1-3). I fought it at first, but the new agents grew on me!